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Apr 29, 2009

Benitez expects Gerrard to face Newcastle

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez expects to welcome influential skipper Steven Gerrard back to the squad for Sunday's crucial Premier League match against relegation threatened Newcastle United.

The England midfielder has not featured since the Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat against Chelsea on April 8 after sustaining an abductor injury.

News that the 28-year-old has recovered is a timely boost for Benitez whose side could find themselves six points adrift of league leaders and title rivals Manchester United come kick-off at Anfield, as Sir Alex Ferguson's side are in action on Saturday against struggling Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

Benitez said: ''Steven is doing well and is training with the rest of the team. I think he will be fit and available for Sunday.

''It is good news for the team and for him because he can be a key player for us over the remaining games. Without Steven the squad has been playing well and scoring goals, that is positive.''

As well as delivering an injury update on Gerrard, Benitez took the opportunity to quash reports in Wednesday's UK newspapers that Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso will be sold to Juventus this summer.

''I was reading the press and they are talking about different players,'' he told the club's website. ''I can guarantee today that we are not thinking about selling anyone. All we are thinking about is to do our job and to try and win the Premier League title, if possible.

''After that you never know what can happen in the market. Clearly, at this moment, we are just preparing for winning games.''

Meanwhile, Newcastle's interim manager has urged his players not to lose faith and become despondent in their desperate battle to avoid relegation.

With four matches to play Newcastle are in the drop zone in 18th place, three points behind Hull City who occupy the relative safety of 17th place.

''We can't get our heads down. There's still a lot of work to be done and we're still in there fighting,'' said Shearer on Newcastle's television channel.

''There'll certainly be no despondency and no-one will be giving up the fight. We will go to Anfield in good spirits and see what we get. Obviously we go there as underdogs but we must believe we can get something.''

After nine games without a goal underfire striker Michael Owen is desperate to rediscover and help Newcastle avoid the drop.s scoring touchand Owen said his goals can still keep Newcastle up.

''I wake up and know where I stand in terms of performances, my standing in the game, the goals I will score given the opportunities and everything else,'' said Owen.

''I have been around a long time and everyone knows if I get chances I will score goals. We understand the criticism we've received for where we are in the table, but we also know for a fact we are a better team than we are showing on a regular basis.

''We have to be brave and positive. We go to Liverpool and we finish the season at Aston Villa, and if we can get some points from those games we'll grasp them.

''But it's the next home games against Middlesbrough and Fulham that are the major focus.''

Newcastle have won only one of their last 18 matches in all competitions and unless their form improves dramatically in the last few games they will be in the second tier of English soccer next season for the first time since 1993.

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